In 1983, Recycled Books, Records, and CDs opened with a small collection of books and records in a tiny, 450 square foot storefront off University Drive. Only about the size of the store’s current mystery paperbacks section, within six months the space was filled beyond capacity—customers having to turn sideways to pass each other, shelves built on wheels to accommodate the ever-shifting and expanding selection, soundtracked by the regular crash of toppling books.
Obviously outgrowing the University location, Recycled soon moved to a storefront on Oakland Street across from Texas Woman’s University. It was here that the store began to expand, acquiring a number of specialized collections from estates, inventory from other nearby stores that were closing, books from local libraries that had never been processed for the shelves, and from customers who came in every day with interesting items to sell. When the business next door moved, Recycled broke through the wall and took over that space as well, then did so again with a third space not long after. Each section now had its own room, and customers loved the maze-like feel of the store’s layout—even then, a place to get lost in, but just a glimpse of what was to come.
When the Kibler Office Supply store closed, freeing space in the Wright Opera House downtown, the next step was obvious, and in 1990 Recycled moved to Denton’s Historic Downtown Square. (Of today’s downtown businesses, only the Downtown Mini Mall and McNeils Appliances were there at the time, along with the original Denton County Independent Hamburger location). The books and records from the Oakland store all fit in the front room. The basement was empty and was sometimes used for events, there was nothing in the adjoining rooms or on the mezzanine, but as before, given room to expand, Recycled did. The small maze of the Oakland store grew to a labyrinth organically, as new acquisitions necessitated new sections and subsections, expansion into new rooms, up and down stairs, through walls…. Today the store fills every corner of the space with thousands of carefully curated books, records, CDs, movies, and collectibles.
Since moving to the Opera House, Recycled has been a cornerstone of Denton’s Square and an icon of the town’s independent and arts-loving spirit. As the largest independent used bookstore in Texas, and one of the largest and most established in the country, it continues to attract book and music lovers to Denton—from students and locals just discovering it for the first time, to former Dentonites who adjust their nearby trips just to pass back through and visit, to dedicated collectors from all over the world who know the store always has something rare and surprising waiting for them. Just as Walt Whitman commented that great poetry requires great audiences, Recycled is able to be what it is because of its great customers and the community it’s a part of.